Having introduced user manuals a few weeks ago, I thought it would be helpful to offer some writing prompts. This is far from an exhaustive list, but here are a few things you might want to include in your relationship manual:
1.Identities that people need to understand to get you
Whether it is furry, asexual, queer, relationship anarchist or switch, often people have labels that are central to their sense of self. If you have a label like this, it is often helpful to identify it and say a little about what it means to you.
2. Your existing relationship constellation
How you currently relate to others is likely to be an indicator of how you might engage in new relationships. It can be a good plan to describe the kinds of relationships that you are currently in – do you differentiate between romantic/sexual/platonic relationships? Are you close to your family of origin? Do you have a family of choice that is important to you? You might even want to include a map of your relationship constellation.
3. Family of origin dynamics
Many of us have parts of family life that we recall with warmth and happiness, but also rather a lot that we recognise from our pasts as dysfunctional or difficult. I think Philip Larkin had it right when he said
“They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.”
It can be useful to notice the hot buttons that you have from your family of origin and to communicate those. That way you can figure out whether your brand of buttons are compatible with new partners.
4. Patterns you like in your relationships and patterns you’re trying to move away from
I’ve noticed that recently I’ve started to get into a pattern of slow starts to relationships. I love this and I want to keep it. I’ve also been noticing that my attractions are more predictable. On the other hand, I am also aware that sometimes I like to take a little more responsibility for the other persons’ emotions in relationships than is really OK. When you think back over your recent relationships, perhaps you can identify a pattern relating to how they start, end or how you do conflict. Recognising these and deciding how the patterns that you have feel to you can liberating and constructive when consciously co-creating relationships.
5. Links to your favorite relationship articles, cartoons or books
Sometimes there are articles that really speak to the way you understand key ideas. Whether it is the video of consent as tea, one of the excellent Kimchi cartoons or a beautifully written article, signpost it to people. It helps them to understand your way of seeing the world and what is important to you.